The top spot in the PAC-12 Conference is on the line this week as #13 UCLA visits #14 Oregon in the nation’s fourth highest-rated game of week eight.
I have predictions for all PAC-12 games and games across the nation, which can be viewed here.
#13 UCLA 6-0 at #14 Oregon 5-1
The Bruins are one of nine undefeated teams in FBS, which is quite an accomplishment for a group with a defense that ranks 98th for giving up the most yards per play (5.9).
UCLA is led by spectacular and tough dual-threat quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson who is completing 75% of his passes with less than 1% interceptions. Those numbers are fabulous when we see that his average pass is over nine yards per attempt. DTR is also UCLA’s second-leading rusher.
Zach Charbonnet leads all Bruin ball carriers with over 600 yards earned at a rate of over seven yards per attempt.
But Oregon also has a top-ten passer in Bo Nix, who has finally found a situation that enables his NFL-caliber skills to excel. Nix is slightly behind Thompson-Robinson in overall passing effectiveness, but he is top 20 in most passing analyses, and the former Auburn five-star is second in the nation for rushing touchdowns among the nation’s quarterbacks.
Oregon has a slight advantage with its multi-faceted rush attack led by Bucky Irving, who puts up more yards per rush attempt than Charbonnet. With Nix and Irving, the Ducks boast two of the nation’s top ten yards-per-carry rushers.
Both of these outfits have strong offensive lines. Oregon leads the nation in the fewest number of sacks allowed, while UCLA is in the top 20. Oregon’s OL has opened holes for the fourth-best rushing attack in America, and UCLA is not far behind at 17th. Both are in the top 25 for the fewest number of tackles allowed in their backfields.
Oregon offensive lineman Steve Jones is still questionable for Saturday’s game because of a lingering foot injury.
With exceptional skill players and strong offensive lines, I expect these two will put up more than 65 points.
There is a lot to like about UCLA’s impressive 40-32 win at home over Utah two weeks ago, but this is only the second game away from Los Angeles for the Bruins, which is important to note because UCLA has not fared well on the road against ranked opponents in recent years.
UCLA has also not fared well against Oregon since the Bruins have lost their last three to the Ducks.
Betting odds favor Oregon by about six. Savvy Index says it will be Oregon, 34-32.
Colorado 1-5 at #25 Oregon State 5-2
Oregon State has returned to the Savvy Index top 25 rankings and should stay there for the next month as the Beavers will probably be favored in their next four games.
This week, the Beavers draw a Colorado bunch that has been renewed by the energy and inspiration of interim head coach Mike Sanford Jr. I said last week that his influence on the Buffalo players was enough reason for me to personally believe Colorado would beat Cal, which they did, despite oddsmakers and Savvy Index favoring the Bears. I also believe that Sanford will be named permanent head coach before the end of the season.
Colorado’s offensive line has been especially good for a team that was winless until last week. Buffalo running backs have found plenty of room, and quarterbacks haven’t sustained much pressure.
But the Buffs are unsure if they will have Alex Fontenot carrying the ball. He has missed the past four games and was still listed as doubtful on Monday. Without him, CU is thin and not potent at running back.
Quarterback Owen McCown does not appear on injury lists nor in news updates from Boulder, so it is assumed he will once again be the starter for Colorado. However, even if McCown cannot start, J.T. Shrout looked terrific when he came in off the bench late in the game.
The Buffaloes have good enough talent on the offensive side of things that they should not be halfway through the season and still have not scored more than 20 points in any game.
The problem has been fumbles terminating drives. In all, the Buffs have fumbled the ball ten times in just six games and lost seven of them.
Last week was a breakthrough for Colorado’s defense as it held Cal to less than 300 total yards.
But the season overall has not been kind to the CU defense, which is second-worst in the nation for stopping the run and only minimally better in defending punt returns.
Guess what Oregon State likes to do.
The Beavers run the ball nearly 60% of the time; their punt return unit is one of the most explosive in all college football.
Colorado also has the second-worst interception secondary of any in the FBS. So even with Oregon State quarterbacks staring down their own receivers and leading defenses to intercept passes, OSU fans shouldn’t be traumatized because the Buffs aren’t in the habit of picking off passes.
And OSU has to pass. It’s not like OSU coach Jonathan Smith can run the ball 100% of the time. If Oregon State expects to get to a prestigious bowl game, it will have to put the ball in the air at times. I mean, if fans want rainbows, then they’ll have to put up with a little rain, something fans in Corvallis know quite well.
I expect the Beavers to stay on the ground two-thirds of the time and probably get a punt return touchdown in the first half.
Colorado hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since 2016. During that drought, the Buffs have lost 15 straight by an average of 23 points. But be warned because that last win over a ranked opponent had two similarities with this game against Oregon State:
1. It was a road game for Colorado
2. It happened on the exact same date of October 22nd.
Odds-makers say OSU by 24. Savvy says OSU 40-24.
I personally think OSU will win but half of those margins.
Washington 5-2 at California 3-3
Both of these teams have been dropping significantly in October.
With Washington, I am not surprised. In fact, I’ve written about the decline the Huskies would experience beginning in late September.
But Cal has been a different story. I thought Cal would be much more competitive, but instead, the Bears lost back-to-back games against Washington State and Colorado.
Pollsters predict Cal will stay within eight points of Washington, but the trend lines on Savvy Index make it clear that the final margin will be much greater in favor of the Huskies.
Neither of these teams has played a difficult schedule, and neither has yet won a road game.
The primary difference this week will be Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who leads the nation in passing yardage. He should find more success against a Cal pass defense that gives up 258 yards and nearly two touchdowns per game.
While betting lines say UW by eight, I prefer Savvy Index and its 35-21 prediction that favors the Huskies.
Arizona State 2-4 at Stanford 2-4
Trend lines for Stanford have been ascending steadily for six straight weeks, and the upturn has been quite dramatic over the past two. If the Cardinal had not been a national leader in fumbling the football earlier in the year, this outfit would be 4-2 right now.
Arizona State has some momentum after the Sun Devils (finally) fired head coach Herm Edwards. The program will get another boost if admins follow with the firing of Director of Athletics Ray Anderson. It’s amazing how much successful athletic programs at any institution are affected by the athletic director.
Anderson was the one who ousted former head coach Todd Graham despite Graham having had two seasons with ten wins and five of his six seasons in bowl games.
Since then, ASU hasn’t been close to winning ten games, and the program stood 1-5 this year until Anderson had to fire his buddy, Edwards.
It ended the grand experiment – the college program to be run like an NFL organization. Was Anderson’s vision wrong? Was firing Graham uncalled for? Did he choose the wrong replacement in Herm Edwards?
Just about any way you cut it, Anderson’s vision and decision-making were lousy and led to NCAA investigations and probable penalties that will affect players and fans long after Anderson and Edwards are gone. Why should those who are innocent pay for the infractions of the perpetrators?
It reminds me of Will Rogers, who once said, “When I die, I want to die like my grandfather, who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.”
Arizona State is still unsure if quarterback Emory Jones will pass concussion protocols in time for the Stanford game this Saturday. That might not matter since redshirt junior Trenton Bourguet stepped in and led the Sun Devils to a win over Washington, the first Sun Devils win over an FBS opponent this season.
Stanford still has trouble with its offensive line, making things challenging for running back Casey Filkins. Yes, Filkins has 430 yards already, but he’s needed 114 carries to get that. Ramming yourself into defenses for 3.77 yards per carry is not why talented ball carriers go to Stanford.
Meanwhile, quarterback Tanner Mckee continues to make NFL-quality throws with a high completion rate (64.8%). McKee is not at all mobile, and opponents have discovered if they pressure Stanford, the offensive line cannot protect McKee (115th), and that has led McKee to an interception rate that is 15% higher than the national average.
I expect to see Stanford go to the air for much of this game, and I believe wide receiver Michael Wilson will be a “tough” cover for the ASU secondary.
Arizona State still has penalty issues, just as Stanford has not solved its turnover problems.
National analysts cite Stanford as a three-point favorite. The Index sees this as 30-28 for Stanford.
Utah, Arizona, and USC are all idle this week.